Increased sCD163 and sCD14 Plasmatic Levels and Depletion of Peripheral Blood Pro-Inflammatory Monocytes, Myeloid and Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells in Patients With Severe COVID-19 Pneumonia

Front Immunol. 2021 Feb 26:12:627548. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.627548. eCollection 2021.


Background: Emerging evidence argues that monocytes, circulating innate immune cells, are principal players in COVID-19 pneumonia. The study aimed to investigate the role of soluble (s)CD163 and sCD14 plasmatic levels in predicting disease severity and characterize peripheral blood monocytes and dendritic cells (DCs), in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia (COVID-19 subjects).

Methods: On admission, in COVID-19 subjects sCD163 and sCD14 plasmatic levels, and peripheral blood monocyte and DC subsets were compared to healthy donors (HDs). According to clinical outcome, COVID-19 subjects were divided into ARDS and non-ARDS groups.

Results: Compared to HDs, COVID-19 subjects showed higher sCD163 (p<0.0001) and sCD14 (p<0.0001) plasmatic levels. We observed higher sCD163 plasmatic levels in the ARDS group compared to the non-ARDS one (p=0.002). The cut-off for sCD163 plasmatic level greater than 2032 ng/ml was predictive of disease severity (AUC: 0.6786, p=0.0022; sensitivity 56.7% [CI: 44.1-68.4] specificity 73.8% [CI: 58.9-84.7]). Positive correlation between plasmatic levels of sCD163, LDH and IL-6 and between plasmatic levels of sCD14, D-dimer and ferritin were found. Compared to HDs, COVID-19 subjects showed lower percentages of non-classical (p=0.0012) and intermediate monocytes (p=0.0447), slanDCs (p<0.0001), myeloid DCs (mDCs, p<0.0001), and plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs, p=0.0014). Compared to the non-ARDS group, the ARDS group showed lower percentages of non-classical monocytes (p=0.0006), mDCs (p=0.0346), and pDCs (p=0.0492).

Conclusions: The increase in sCD163 and sCD14 plasmatic levels, observed on hospital admission in COVID-19 subjects, especially in those who developed ARDS, and the correlations of these monocyte/macrophage activation markers with typical inflammatory markers of COVID-19 pneumonia, underline their potential use to assess the risk of progression of the disease. In an early stage of the disease, the assessment of sCD163 plasmatic levels could have clinical utility in predicting the severity of COVID-19 pneumonia.

Keywords: ELISA; SARS-CoV-2; dendritic cells; flow cytometry; mDCs; monocytes; pDCs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antigens, CD / blood*
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic / blood*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • COVID-19 / blood
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / virology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Monocytes / virology
  • Myeloid Cells / immunology*
  • Myeloid Cells / metabolism
  • Myeloid Cells / virology
  • Patient Admission
  • Phenotype
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / blood*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Up-Regulation


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic
  • Biomarkers
  • CD14 protein, human
  • CD163 antigen
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors
  • Receptors, Cell Surface